EagleHerald/Rick Gebhard
From left; Foreign exchange students from Mexico City along with Ana Flores, (advisor/teacher), Sofia Gonzales, Mariana Tovar, Azul Padilla, Aolani Flores, Bruno Monroy and Daniel Ramirez arrive at St. John Paul II Academy during an assembly Monday in Menominee.
EagleHerald/Rick Gebhard

From left; Foreign exchange students from Mexico City along with Ana Flores, (advisor/teacher), Sofia Gonzales, Mariana Tovar, Azul Padilla, Aolani Flores, Bruno Monroy and Daniel Ramirez arrive at St. John Paul II Academy during an assembly Monday in Menominee.

MENOMINEE — St. John Paul II Academy welcomed students from Mexico Monday morning as a part of their new Close to Home global education program. The students arrived in the United States on Saturday and participated in a welcome ceremony, during which they entered the school carrying the Mexican and American flags and sang both countries’ national anthems with the rest of the students.

The school has partnered with International School-to-School Experience (ISSE) to implement what the school’s marketing and PR chair Dana Stanglmaier describes as a “unique international program for middle school students that provides for the exchange of thoughts and ideas through face-to-face contact with children from other countries around the world.”

Stanglmaier said, “The school will be adopting a global education approach to the curriculum (with this program), and that has three components. The first is an international exchange program; we are going to swap students with one school from one country for two to three weeks. They’ll attend school like a regular student, but will also visit every grade level of the school and have age-appropriate activities.”

This year, since the program is so new, JPII Academy won’t be sending any students out. Stanglmaier said that for people in the community to really get on board with the program, they should first see what the program brings to the area. “Nobody’s done it in this area before, and to get the parents excited about it they first need to see it,” she said.

The welcome ceremony is treated as a more formal occasion for the students. Stanglmaier said the students are told when they come to their host country, “you are an ambassador of your country, your culture, your traditions. So it’s a bit more formal and something for them to take more seriously.”

The students coming in and going out will be between the ages of 10 and 12, according to Stanglmaier. “If you’re going to plant a seed, it’s got to be within those developmental years. At that age they’re independent enough to not need someone to take them to the bathroom, but they also know their limits. They know they can’t drive and can’t just be alone outside, so it’s a great time to absorb and bring back knowledge,” she said.

She said ISSE determines which countries the school will swap with every two years. This year, the school will receive students from Mexico, which she said ISSE recommended as Mexico is nearby (globally speaking) and wouldn’t cause any jet-lag for the students. Next year they’ll swap with Puerto Rico, and other possible countries in the future include Finland, Australia, India, Pakistan and countries in Central and South America.

As the second component of the school’s global approach to the curriculum, the school also partnered with UW-Green Bay Marinette Campus and had some of the college’s international students give presentations on their country, giving them a platform to practice their English and give students more material to integrate into their education.

The third component, according to Stanglmaier, is to invest in more geography materials, such as games and maps for classroom use. “That way when they have something like the history of Central America, they’ll have more materials to study it. The school isn’t going to be an international school, but there’ll be more of a focus on global education,” she said.

“I personally believe this is going to be a great program for everybody,” she said. “I would love for children in this community in some years to have a different view of what the world is. I also know that local businesses have trouble finding talent, and even if the parents commute to their jobs the family stays closer to the school, not to the job. So this will give them something unique to the area to bring them here.”